Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary

THE EPIC OF EDEN BY SANDRA L. RICHTER ± A CRITICAL INTERACTION

Submitted to Dr. Gary E. Yates in partial fulfillment of requirements for THEO 695

by Elke B. Speliopoulos

Downingtown, PA January 24, 2010

ii

CONTENTS

INTRODUCTION ...................................................................................................................... 1 APPROACH TO ORGANIZATION .......................................................................................... 1 STYLE AND IMPACT .............................................................................................................. 3 CONCLUSION .......................................................................................................................... 5 BIBLIOGRAPHY ....................................................................................................................... 7

1

INTRODUCTION The title page of Sandra L. Richter¶s book The Epic of Eden: A Christian Entry into the Old Testament features an open doorway leading out to a pristine landscape beyond the cobblestone walkway. This is an exceedingly appropriate image for the motivation behind Richter¶s writing of this book: her desire to lead believers out of the unknown of the Old Testament and into the light of God bringing Adam back into the garden. As she observes, most lay readers of the Bible ³have not been involved in any sort of intentional study of the Old Testament since«well, since they can¶t remember when.´1 Richter seeks to give her readers a tool that will allow them to address their ³dysfunctional closet syndrome´2 and put a ³mortal blow´3 to it by offering metaphorical pole, hooks and hangers to organize the information. Richter¶s approach in doing so involves an overcoming of barriers ³from millennia of linguistic, cultural and historical changes´4 and then organizing the information; her end desire is that her readers understand that the Bible is the story of redemption. APPROACH TO ORGANIZATION Richter seeks to organize the truly massive amount of data (to use a clearly more modern term) of the Old Testament into a system that allows the not-so-Bible literate reader to follow. In order to bring a level of organization to the ³OT closet´, she hangs the information on to one major theme, redemption, and focuses on three aspects along the way: people, place and presence. This will ultimately allow the reader to understand God¶s plan to lead fallen (representing both the literal Adam and fallen humanity in Richter¶s book) back to Eden. d m

. Sandra L. Richter, The Epic of Eden: A Christian Entry into the Old Testament (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2008), 16.
2 3 4

1

. Ibid., 17-18. . Ibid., 19. . Ibid., 20.

2

To explain redemption, she begins by taking her readers back in time into a society rather unfamiliar to them in the 21st century: the father¶s house(hold), or bêt b, a patriarchal,

patrilineal and patrilocal construct of Israelite society5. This travel back to show how an extended family was located around the patriarch and how this arrangement played out in everyday living, including ³legal and economic responsibility for the household´6, where the patriarch might even decided ³who lived and who died´7 allows the reader a clearer understanding of many biblical writings. This construct also helps explain the story of Boaz and Ruth, one of the examples Richter provides, in which Boaz acts as a kinsman-redeemer to uphold the line of Naomi¶s son, by fathering a son that would inherit Mahlon¶s name and inheritance, thereby securing both the fate of Ruth and Naomi.8 This discussion of the bêt b seamlessly leads to the topic and concept of covenant,

which centers most of the remaining depiction of God¶s plan to redeem mankind. Richter allows the reader to continue organizing the Old Testament closet through the means of five Old Testament names, Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, David. While she does not discuss an ³Edenic Covenant´, she discusses the role of Adam at length. However, in the organizational flow, she focuses on five covenants: the Adamic, Noahic, Mosaic, Davidic and New Covenants. Along the way, Richter takes excursions to explain topics, which are critical to the Old Testament, such as the real time and space of the Old Testament, creation, and thereby God¶s original intent, and New Jerusalem, or God¶s final intent. This is the framework within which Richter develops the redemption story of the Old Testament that ultimately leads us into the New Testament and to
5. Ibid., 25. 6. Ibid., 26. 7. Ibid., 27. 8. Ibid., 40-42.

d m returning to the restored Eden and into the presence of God.

3

STYLE AND IMPACT Richter¶s book is very readable ± for a Bible college or seminary student. Yet, upon completion of the book, I was left wondering just how much a real lay person would be able to work their way through this book without some level of frustration. Not because she does not do an excellent job explaining concepts of the Old Testament depiction of redemption through God¶s covenants with His people, but rather because this book does not read the Bible for them. To a person with general Old Testament familiarity, this would not pose a problem, but it most certainly would hinder the understanding of a reader not terribly knowledgeable of the Old Testament. There are large portions left untouched (the Prophets, the Psalms, etc.), and it might lead to remaining uncertainty in the reader¶s mind about where they fit in. In a manner, this is answered when Richter discusses blessings and curses as associated with covenant making in the Ancient Near East9. Certainly, many of the passages in the prophets fit exactly into this depiction of curses and blessings. This is clear to a person who has read through the Old Testament, but again, may pose a difficulty to the understanding of a less Bible-literate reader. Richter uses graphics liberally throughout the book, which is a refreshing departure from typical reading on this topic. It allows her to keep a red thread throughout the book (example: the oft-repeated graphic of the fall from Eden and God¶s relentless work through various covenants to bring d m back into fellowship with Him)10. Another example is the timeline graphic,

which is repeated several times, allowing the reader to keep up with where Richter is in history.11 This is an excellent technique to allow a not so deeply biblically aware reader to keep up with where she is taking him.

9. Ibid., 81. 10. The graphic is first encountered in its root form on page 131. 11. The timeline graphic is initially found on page 48.

4

While her excursions into particular topics are exciting and interesting12, they sometimes seem to lead the reader away from the red thread of redemption running through the book. Richter approaches this in three manners: built into the text as the example of the creation theories highlights, highlighted in a gray box13, or addressed in an FAQ section (and extensive endnotes). For the reader, the flow might have been easier if these ± often lengthy ± passages were kept together. Her FAQ section is a perfect place to dive into such ³specialized´ questions further, but she makes rather limited use of this section with only two questions. Her rather extensive endnotes section gives her book a much more scholarly appearance, yet one is left to wonder exactly who her targeted readership is, as most lay people will not be terribly interested in the endnotes. Again, it might have been more beneficial to offer some of this information in the FAQ section. What is immensely beneficial to readers is the wonderfully educational attempt to rid them of their ethnocentric filter with which all approach a book written in a time and place so far removed from them. Her explanation of people, place and presence allows the reader to start from the same starting point as the writers of the Old Testament. Here again, Richter is to be commended for guiding her readers, as this concept of people, place and presence threads throughout the book. Despite some of the issues addressed above, Richter achieves what she set out to do: she paints a picture of redemption as she provides her readers a framework in which they can organize material, or their ± now formerly ± ³dysfunctional closet´. She concludes the book with a brief FAQ section, which actually provides some rather thought-provoking discussions around

12. An example here is the discussion of the theories around the ³week´ of Genesis 1, beginning on page 95, which, while very interesting, does not contribute to the overall discussion of creation at this point. 13. The discussion of the ³Image on page 107 is such a gray highlighted section.

5

the meaning of the Law for today¶s believers14 and the role of Israel today15. These sections alone, if read stand-alone, would be utterly stimulating. Richter may even want to think to spend some more time expanding on these two questions in follow-up works. There is a lot of confusion today with a renewed interest in Christian Zionism and Israel, and the many who may have gotten a bit carried away in their fervor of unquestioningly supporting Israel (and pointing to the blessings and curses announced in Genesis 12:3) might just be a bit surprised and stimulated sufficiently that they may want to think this through a bit further. One understanding the readers will clearly walk away with is that the casual image of Heaven is far from the picture God is painting in the pages of the Scriptures. As Richter points out, the believer¶s ultimate destination is the return to the Father¶s household in the restored garden delighting in His presence. CONCLUSION Richter approaches the Old Testament in a way that ultimately allows her readers to understand that the Word of God is a consistent redemption story, one which does not stop at the last page of Malachi, but rather continues into the New Testament, as only there the final destination of d m is found in the New Jerusalem.

Richter describes her emotions on her first trip to Israel with a line from a John Denver song in that she felt that she was ³coming home to a place I¶d never been before´16. Ultimately, this book is a perfect description of why all believers just might have that feeling: the land¶s history is their history, too. The people who lived here and were the apple of God¶s eye have now become the believer¶s family through his adoption into Abraham¶s family line and through

14. Richter, The Epic of Eden: A Christian Entry into the Old Testament, 225. 15. Ibid., 229. 16. The graphic is first encountered in its root form on page 131.

6

it into the bêt

b of God Most High. God¶s redemption plan of

d m gives us all a common

standing and a common experience. With the Israelites, we can be assured of God¶s fighting for his redeemed people, for as Zechariah 2:8 tells ³for he who touches you touches the apple of his eye´.

7

BIBLIOGRAPHY Richter, Sandra L. The Epic of Eden: A Christian Entry into the Old Testament. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2008.

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful